Author: Michelle Meyers

The Tax Bill and Graduate Students: What We Know as of December 2, 2017

I wish this post didn’t need to be written, but unfortunately, it’s a tumultuous time with regard to the future of funding for graduate students, including those pursuing an MFA. As many of you know, earlier this week, Republicans in the House passed a comprehensive tax bill, and last night, Republicans in the Senate passed a similar comprehensive tax bill in a 51-49 vote. The Senate and the House will now have to reconcile the differences in the two bills before creating a unified bill to pass on to President Trump, who will undoubtedly sign it into law. So how does this pertain to graduate students? Well, we’re not sure yet. The reason for this is because of a key difference between the tax bill passed by the House and that passed by the Senate. The provisions in the tax overhaul passed by the House would be detrimental for any graduate students in the United States receiving a tuition remission as part of their financial package (this is the case with most if not all …

Being in a Fully Funded MFA Is Not the Same as Earning a Living Wage

I’m planning to write a reflective post at the end of this semester on what it’s been like to be a third-year MFA student. (Busy! More details to come!) In the meantime, I wanted to address something that’s been on my mind. To be clear, I don’t know of any fully-funded MFA’s that include an explicit statement on their website that you can also live on said funding. But, I will say that when applying to MFA programs, I suppose there was a naïve assumption on my part that I would be able to more or less live on my stipend, especially if I wasn’t going to a program in a large, expensive city like New York or Boston. Even in the very highest tier of funded programs, graduate students are usually making just over $20,000 a year before taxes (some programs in this tier of funding include Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, the Michener Center, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis). More commonly, fully funded programs offer something around …

What Is a Mentor, Exactly?

On Father’s Day, a former creative writing professor of mine from college (let’s call him B) wrote a long and eloquent post about his thankfulness not only for his father but also for a dear mentor of his. This mentor had been B’s professor when he was an undergraduate many years ago. He had given B advice and guidance when B was rejected from graduate school, had continued to read B’s stories after B had had said mentor for workshop, and had introduced B to his literary agent. I acknowledge that this was a Facebook post and thus I certainly don’t know the full context of this mentorship. What I do know is that when I read that post, I felt a little jealous, although it was hard to parse out the exact nature of that jealousy. B’s post made me wonder, how common is it for writers to have mentors in this day and age, and what is the nature of those mentorships? How do different people interpret the idea of mentorship? On the …

On All the Rejections

The second year of the MFA is wrapping up and I generally feel good–about the program, about the progress of my writing, about potential prospects after the MFA (I have one more year left), and about the summer ahead of me. This semester, I’ve started writing a second novel about mysterious deaths and scientists and Los Alamos and time travel, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’ve decided to work on my book of satirical short stories about Los Angeles for my thesis, and I’m contemplating applying to PhD programs around the Los Angeles area, where I plan to move after finishing the MFA, as well as other teaching/writing/nonprofit jobs. I suppose what’s odd to me is that on one level, everything is going swimmingly. I’m on course to finish strong drafts of a novel and a collection of short stories at the end of three years of an MFA. I’m getting positive feedback and generative feedback and I’m secure in my abilities as a writer in addition to acknowledging the areas in …

The Novel Workshop

On Tuesday, we had our first meeting of “The Novel Workshop,” a two-semester class intended for graduate students to write, as you may have guessed, a novel! I’m in a unique position in that I have written a novel before, but I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—every novel is different, and I’ve heard many an author mention the challenge of writing a second novel after the first, to make novel-writing a practice rather than a single endeavor. I’m excited for the workshop. As far as I know, workshops designated specifically to writing a novel rather than short fiction are somewhat unusual among MFA programs. And I know what makes me most nervous about the workshop is probably a net positive—I tend to be someone writes sporadically, who does not keep to a schedule, who produces a lot but in intermittent starts and spurts. But the expectations of this workshop won’t allow for such. We are to produce 40,000 words by the end of our semester. My first novel was short, …

On Balancing Your “MFA Life” with Your Personal Life (Or At Least Trying To Do So)

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my second year for a few months now. The delay hasn’t come from a lack of ideas, but in part from the difficulty of deciding what I should say, what would be the most useful. The other factor, of course, is that my workload has been significantly heavier this year than it was my first year. I’m taking three classes (“Hypoxic Workshop” again, “Uses of History,” and “The Personal Essay”), whereas most second year MFA students at Alabama take only two (I don’t regret my decision, but….). I’m also teaching two classes (English 101: Freshman Composition), which takes up far more time and mental energy than my position as a TA for a lecture class last year. Because I have so much to do, it often feels like time spent “working” should be spent on reading and researching and writing for classes and lesson planning and grading and responding to students’ e-mails, and any time beyond that should be spent actively unwinding, socializing or watching TV or …

End of Semester Reflections on Moving to Alabama and Publishing a Novel

It’s early June, about a month since I intended to write this post. My initial thought was to write something about the first year of the MFA in review, but the idea of covering so much ground was enough for me to leave the blogging for tomorrow and catch up on Veep and Silicon Valley instead. Rather, I decided to reflect on two major points that have proven to be important learning experiences this year: moving to Alabama and publishing my debut novel. 1) I moved to Tuscaloosa, AL and I have mixed feelings about it. Part of the growing process for me has been learning to manage my expectations.   Okay, so the fact that I have mixed feelings about living in Alabama should come as no surprise (don’t we all have mixed feelings on everything to some degree?) On the one hand, I really like the MFA program at Alabama. The classes are interesting (for instance, so far I’ve taken courses on Comedy, Detective Fiction, and Fabulism, just to name a few). The …